A military show, Paris is not

PARIS AIR SHOW BLOG, 23 June 2011. While there are many military aircraft on display from the U.S. and aroudn the world and the Eurofighter entertains the spectators with its aerial acrobatics, the Paris Air Show is all about the commercial jets.
The two airframer giants -- Airbus and Boeing -- both gear big airplane order announcements toward this event and the Farnborough Air Show on the off years. New smaller aircraft also are displayed such as business jets from Bombardier and Embraer and even Sukhoi gave a tease this year toward their upcoming launch of a business jet version of the Superjet 100.

U.S. defense companies did have a big presence at the event and displayed many of their aircraft for all to see, but for many U.S. companies large and small the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) makes it hard for them to pursue foreign sales.
One U.S. executive told me that it is mostly a speed bump to doing business and if they are prepared most companies can work through it, he said. However, if they are not it can be a big impediment.
Also, these speed bumps may increasingly force foreign users to look outside the U.S. as international technology development catches up and in some cases surpasses U.S. expertise.
I hear executives of foreign companies complain that the ITAR hurts their business because they can't penetrate the large U.S. defense market, but I think it hits U.S. companies the hardest. Not only do they have to spend many dollars hiring consultants, compliance officers, and attorneys, but can feel quite isolated when it comes to growing their business.
The Obama Administration says it has plans to reform export compliance over the enxt few years, but defense suppliers say they have a hard time believing it will get better.
I asked an export attorney once why there are so many more ITAR violations and issues than a decade ago. Is it just the nature of the world we live in, I asked. 
She said "no, they just hired more enforcement officers."
Can you say shakedown?


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